Will Kenya Navy leave disputed area within maritime border with Somalia?

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Kenya will be making defining decisions in coming weeks over the future of the Kenya Navy within the disputed maritime border with Somalia, following a court decision that largely favoured Mogadishu.

The International Court of Justice [ICJ] ruled in favour of Somalia, with the Horn of Africa nation taking huge chunks of the disputed area after over right years of tussle with the East Africa nation, which started sometime in 2014.

Already, Nairobi has rejected the ruling with President Uhuru Kenyatta arguing that “we cannot cede even a single inch to them”. Similar sentiments were echoed by General Robert Kibochi, the Chief of Defense Forces of Kenya.

However, whether the decision to respect the court order succeeds or not, Kenya Navy, which has been doing surveillances in the disputed area, will have to make the decision whether to continue being within the area or leave.

“Kenya has been in situ i.e. in actual occupation and control of the maritime territory since 1979 and the Kenya Navy patrols and provides security and navigational support to marine traffic in the disputed area,” explains Capt [Rtd] Collins Wanderi.

The former Air Force Captain explains that the Kenya Navy cannot leave, because the void would invite pirates and increase the cost of doing business in Kenya and countries in the hinterland.

“This would make Mombasa and Lamu ports unattractive to International maritime traffic. Kenya cannot afford the mess, so Kenya must stay put!” Capt [Rtd] Wanderi told the Standard.

To carry out this task, the Navy has a wide arsenal and experience on its disposal, as published in the book, the Kenya Navy A 50 Year Voyage Official Commemorative Publication of the Golden Jubilee.

The Kenya Navy is organized into three fighting Squadrons, namely the pioneer 66 Squadron, the 79 Squadron, and the 86 Squadron. The squadrons are supported by the Clearance Diving Unit [CDU], the Special Boat Unit [SBU], the Fleet Maintenance Unit [FMU], and the recently created elite unit, the Marine Ranger Regiment.

The first Navy Fleet, the 66 Squadron, was launched in 1966 with just three ships namely KNS Simba, KNS Chui, and KNS Ndovu, all built in the United Kingdom. KNS Simba, the first Kenya Navy ship to be built, was decommissioned [taken out of service] twice, once in 1988 and again in 1992 and later on used for training purposes.

Notably, KNS Simba, KNS Chui, and KNS Ndovu, were extensively used during the Shifta campaign in August 1966 to transport the Army and the police to Lamu. In 1974, a new squadron was added to the Kenya Navy upon the acquisition of KNS Mamba, becoming the first ship of the 76 Squadron.

KNS Mamba’s firing firepower was composed of a powerful weapon package comprising of 30mm twin Barrel Oerlikon guns forward and four Gabriel I Surface-to-Air Missiles aft, multiple rocket launchers, and anti-air artillery.

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